How To Prepare Peonies For The Winter

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Last Updated on January 16, 2022 by Cristina

Peonies are a great addition to any garden, and you might be wondering if you are preparing peonies for the winter as it should be done. As you know, some plants need replanting every year because they can’t make it through the winter. Even though peonies are long-lived perennials, you need to prepare them for the winter if you want them to survive. In today’s article, we’ll be learning how to prepare peonies for the winter and how to care for them.

How Do Peonies Function During The Winter?

You might be wondering should you cover peonies for winter or should peonies be cut back before winter. Interestingly, the peony is a plant that likes colder temperatures! You actually might have a problem with it if it doesn’t get enough hours in the cold! During the winter – a peony will lay dormant. The hibernation period lasts until the temperatures rise.

These plants need up to 40 days of lower temperatures – 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the most. Why is this? Because this plant uses the cold to stimulate bud development! Without that crucial process, there’ll be no bloom in the spring. It can spend even more than 40 days in cold, or even freezing temperatures. Peonies dislike the exact opposite – they don’t like an area that’s too warm.

How Do Peonies Function During The Winter

How To Prepare Peonies For The Winter

To answer the question from the beginning of the previous section – should you cut peonies back before winter? Definitely! Let the foliage die down naturally and then cut the stems to an inch above soil level. Some gardeners prefer using this foliage as compost, others throw it away for fear of disease. It might be smarter to go with the latter option, as there might be pests on the foliage!

Additionally, we have to talk about mulching! Sometimes, your natural instinct may tell you to mulch the plant to keep it warm during the winter. When it comes to peonies, avoid this – mulching will not help it! The most important aspect of growing a healthy peony is choosing the correct planting depth. If you live in a colder area, that depth it two inches, while it’s just a single inch for warmer areas.

This depth needs to be measured precisely! Because of this necessary precision when it comes to depth, you shouldn’t add any mulch during the winter. This is twice as important if you live in warmer areas! Mulch basically serves as an insulation device and it’s going to retain heat – you don’t want that with these plants!

Now, we’ll move on to general care of the peony, but know that keeping right care of it during the winter will like make or break this plant. If you do this part right, you’ll probably have a very successful plant on your hands.

Peony Care – Preparing Peones For Winter

The good news is – you’re probably not going to have to care much for this plant. As long as you chose the right spot for planting it, your peonies are going to do just fine on your own. It’s only important that the winter requirements are fulfilled. About choosing the right time to plant your peony, do it in late September or early October. If you live in a warmer climate, though (zones 7 and 8, for example), wait until late November!

Regarding the care itself, you’ve mostly realized by now that these plants prosper in the cold. In that regard, this plant is much easier to take care of than most other plant life. This also applies to general care – water, fertilizer, health, etc.

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Peonies need very little fertilization. Experts recommend that you fertilize the soil if you’re certain that you have poor soil. Even then you shouldn’t put too much fertilizer, focus on compost instead, and make sure to do that before you plant your peonies. Work that mixture into the soil and your plants should be just fine.

It’s possible that the soil won’t be doing so well after that either. If that is the case, fertilize once every two years, but no more than that. Peonies really need you to neglect them more than they need you to take care of them!

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Preparing Peones For Winter


You don’t need to water your peonies virtually at all! You should definitely cover the soil with water immediately after planting your peonies, but that’s about it. The only time you should additionally water them is during the spring and the summer if there’s very little to no rain. If it comes down to that, water them well once every other week!

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Peonies are usually resistant to most pests (including deer), but there are a few instances where your peony could be ill or have pests! Stem rot and tip blight are both possible, with the Verticillium wilt and the Ringspot virus being reported every now and then. However, aside from these issues, peonies are very tough and they usually don’t need you to care about their health.

Something that they do have problems with, however, is their stems! A peony’s stem is often too weak to support the entire plant, and you might need to help it. Most gardeners solve this problem by using peony rings (they usually stay up on three legs). The reason for this problem lies in the blossom – it’s so large and heavy that the stem simply bends.

Peonies are in season usually in the late spring or early summer, so you should expect these problems to arise during that time. They rarely develop during their first season, however, as peonies need a few seasons to fully grow!

Peony Care - Health

Preparing Peones For Winter Conclusion

In summation, when it comes to preparing peonies for the winter, they need very little. It’s the opposite, actually. These plants need you to leave them alone. They enjoy the colder months as they actively develop them. Additionally, they don’t need you to water them! The only thing they need is for you to plant them at the right depth and to make sure that there isn’t any mulch on top of them.

These plants are very tough and they want you to treat them as such!

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